Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 4, Episode 26 - Episode #4.26 - full transcript

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LAST WEEK TONIGHT
WITH JOHN OLIVER

Season IV
Episode 26

Welcome to Last Week Tonight.
I'm John Oliver.

Thank you for joining us.
A quick recap of the week,

which has been hectic and depressing,
from mass shooting in Las Vegas,

to the battle
over Catalan independence,

to the ongoing recovery from
Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Or, as our president insisted
on pronouncing it this week.

We are also praying
for the people of Puerto Rico.

We love Puerto Rico.

No. Nobody loves anything
and still says its name like that.



If I ask you if you feel like Italian
and you say:

"let us order some spaghetti".

I love "spaghetti",
then you don't love spaghetti,

you hate Italians, and we're
not having dinner together.

Trump was not the only world
leader to malfunction this week.

In the UK, Theresa May
addressed her party conference,

hoping to quell a revolt
by demonstrating strong leadership.

So how did that go ?

Nearly an hour into her speech,
the sign behind her head

began falling apart,
one letter at a time.

That is not a good sign.
That literally wasn't a good sign.

Not everything
I say has to be a joke.

I'm allowed to just say true
things sometimes. I'm allowed.

We marked the one-year anniversary
of the Access Hollywood tape



with grim stories concerning
the treatment of women.

The Times published a massive
expose detailing

movie executive Harvey Weinstein's
years of alleged sexual harassment.

His response was infuriating,
he and his attorneys admitted

he needs help, while denying charges
and threatening to sue the Times.

And on top of that was this.

Weinstein says in part:
"I came of age in '60s and '70s"

"when all the rules about behavior
in the workplaces were different."

"I have
since learned it's not an excuse."

Your excuse isn't an excuse.
In fact, it isn't even an excuse

for that behavior in the '60s.

We had no idea women didn't want
to be forced to look at dicks !

That wasn't discovered by
scientists until 1998 !

It was a different time !

New stories are coming out, including
an allegation from one local reporter

that Weinstein trapped her, tried
to kiss her and when she refused,

he exposed himself before ejaculating
quickly into a potted plant.

Step aside, "Chocolat", you are
no longer the most horrifying picture

that Harvey Weinstein
has ever produced !

Donald Trump,
the Harvey Weinstein of presidents,

had his own surprise
for women this week.

This is a story
that could affect a lot of women.

A change to an insurance mandate
means birth control

may no longer be covered.

Employers can stop offering
free birth control,

if they have a sincerely held
religious or moral objection to it.

Trump administration is making
it easier for employers

to stop covering employees'
birth control,

or, as Mike Pence would put it,
they:

"defend the right of future babies
to continue"

"through the male sin stick and
into a woman's motherhole."

On top of all of this, there has been
chaos in the White House,

particularly surrounding
secretary of state, Rex Tillerson,

a man who in every photo looks like
he sold someone a Weber Grill.

It seems that relations between
Tillerson and the president

have hit an all-time low.

A report rocketing around Washington.
NBC News reporting

Tillerson had called Trump
a "moron".

Yeah, a moron.
State Department denied that report,

which prompted NBC to issue
a crucial clarification

that he'd actually called him
a fucking moron.

Which led
to this amazing TV debate.

- Was it moron or fing moron ?
- It's unclear.

I feel there is
a little bit of a difference.

It was definitely moron.

This is the type of discussion
we now have on TV:

does the secretary of state think
the president is a moron

or a fucking moron ?

If it's just "moron",
that makes him a moderate.

The breakdown in this relationship
is very funny.

It could have
serious consequences.

Foreign powers
may not negotiate with a diplomat

they don't believe
has the president's support.

If Tillerson goes,
he might not go alone.

There is, quote, a reported suicide
pact forged between Mattis,

Mnuchin and Tillerson whereby
all three cabinet secretaries

vow to leave if the president
makes moves against one of them.

Apparently, these three
cabinet members have a pact

to quit
if one of them is fired.

Which makes sense,
except... Mnuchin ?

He's sexy, yeah,
the guy's a perfect ten,

but we all agree on that,
but Mnuchin threatening to resign

is a bit like a bee threatening
to fly out of a car.

Okay. Fucking go, then.

That instability within
the administration is more concerning,

given the terrifying statement
the president gave this week.

President raised eyebrows
with this comment

about the military leaders
he invited to the White House.

- Do you know what this represents ?
- Tell us, sir.

Maybe it's the calm
before the storm.

- What's the storm ?
- The calm before the storm.

- What storm, Mr. President ?
- You'll find out.

What are you talking about ?

No moment in the preceding nine
months has been remotely calm.

It's like we are two hours
into a Slipknot concert

and they said: "enough ballads,
we're gonna play one that rocks."

He could mean decertifying
the Iran nuclear deal.

It could mean launching
all-out war with North Korea.

It could mean a military
strike on Puerto Rico.

Or it could mean nothing.
I am quoting the secretary of state,

these are his words, it is vulgar
and I do not approve this language,

our president is
a "fucking moron."

And now, this.

And now, dicks.

This construction is happening
along North Michigan,

starting at Houghten Avenue
and going all the way to State Avenue.

Then those storms will
move up to the north and the east.

And then this year,
the places that just don't have snow.

We're gonna be seeing a lot of
the energy that continue to climb up.

Temperatures are going to be
a few degrees higher.

We've got that forecast going,
shows you that it stays off the...

Watch the precipitation.
Some will head towards the west.

You can see him spraying
some kind of...

I don't know if it's a picture
or a message.

This is my crude version
of a map of the United States.

How does this play out ?

A cannon !

- I don't know.
- What do you do ?

These you can buy,
and those ones, I made.

- Using your hand or...
- What'd I just make there ?

Moving on.
Before our main story tonight,

I'd like to quickly tell you about
a beloved icon of my childhood

and it's this man.

For twenty years, he made
the dreams of young people come true,

with his hugely popular
"Jim'll Fix It" program.

Best known for his trademark
jewelry, track suits, tinted glasses

and Havana cigar.

That bizarre-looking man,
Jimmy Savile, was a national hero.

We named places for him,
we gave him a knighthood,

we even put up
this statue of him.

It looks like a cheese sculpture
of George Carlin left in the sun.

He had a show called "Jim'll Fix It"
where he granted wishes

and like many British kids,
I wrote to him.

I asked him to make me the mascot
for Liverpool Football Club.

Hd he never wrote back.
Which I'm glad about,

because after he died, Britain began
to find out who he really was

and the truth was horrific.

He's gone from a loved entertainer
and respected charity fundraiser

to a man described by Scotland Yard
as a predatory sex offender.

Jimmy Savile's headstone was here
for less than three weeks.

His epitaph read
"it was good while it lasted".

An unsettling thing to have written
on his gravestone.

Nearly every famous epitaph
would sound horrifying

written on a sex offender's gravestone,
from Dean Martin's

"everybody loves
somebody sometime",

to Rodney Dangerfield's
"there goes the neighborhood".

Funny, but if he'd been
a sex offunder, not so much.

Savile's headstone was taken down.
As was that sign and that statue.

Once we found out
that he was a monster,

we accepted it was no longer
appropriate to publicly glorify him.

Which brings us to our main story
tonight: the Confederacy,

America's tracksuit sex offender.

There has been a robust debate over
Confederate symbols,

from flags being taken down,
to statues being removed,

to the white nationalist rallies
in Charlottesville,

the violent one in August
and the one happened last night.

As this debate is
not going away,

we wanted to take a look
at the arguments.

You don't have to look hard
to find people very upset

at the idea of Confederate statues
being taken away.

You can't change history,

you can't pick and choose
what you decide is history.

They oughta leave them alone.
They're part of history.

I don't think we can erase
our history.

It may not represent the best idea
that anybody ever came up with,

but it's part of our history
and I think it should stay there.

He is right that the Confederacy
and everything that came with it

is, to put it mildly, not the best
idea anybody ever came up with.

That is making grilled cheese
on a toaster turned sideways.

That is a billion-dollar idea
that is also worthless.

They're also right about one thing:
we should remember our history.

Let's do that and look at the unique
heritage of these symbols,

starting with the fact that there are
more than you expect.

The Southern Poverty Law Center

found 1 500 Confederate memorials
across the country.

More than 700 of them are statues
and monuments

and 10 U.S. military bases
are named for Confederate officers.

There are U.S. military bases named
for Confederate officers.

And they were the enemy !
They killed U.S. soldiers !

Like finding out that Nancy Kerrigan
named her child "Tonya Harding".

Why would you do that ?
That's a weird choice.

Tributes to the Confederacy are
everywhere, in the South,

and, notably,
some in the North, too.

That map doesn't include kitschy
ways the War is presented,

like at this family restaurant.

Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede brings
a rip-roaring taste of America to life !

Dixie Stampede is a musical
extravaganza of sight and sound

centered around a friendly
North/South rivalry.

Friendly servers bring
the delicious feast right to you,

including a whole rotisserie
chicken and all the Pepsi,

iced tea or coffee you like.

Yes: that is a Confederate soldier
serving a small child

all the Pepsi she likes,
which is still, remarkably,

only Pepsi's
second worst ad campaign.

If you grew up
with experiences like that,

it can seem like the Civil War
is just a friendly rivalry,

a fun, colorful part of U.S. history.

But that omits the key
fact about the Civil War:

the Confederacy was fighting
for the preservation of slavery.

And that's not my opinion.
That is just a fact.

There are many ways
that we know this.

Slavery is mentioned in
states' declarations of secession,

Mississippi saying:
"our position is identified"

"with the institution
of slavery".

Confederate constitution contains
a clause enshrining slavery forever.

The speech Stephens, the Confederate
vice president, gave in 1861,

in which he articulated the basic
principles for the Confederate nation.

Its foundations are laid,
its cornerstone rests upon the truth

that the negro
is not equal to the white man,

that slavery, subordination
to the superior race,

is his natural
and normal condition.

"Subordination
to the superior race"? That is explicit.

If the Confederacy
was not about slavery,

somebody should go back in time
and tell the fucking Confederacy that.

Many people think the Civil War
was over something else.

When people were asked

what do they think the main cause
of the Civil War is ?

48% said mainly
about states' rights,

only 38% said mainly about
slavery, 9% said both.

And that is amazing.

Only 38% thought the Civil War
was mainly about slavery.

In other words: look to your left.
Look to your right.

Statistically, all three of you
live in a country

where only 38% of people think
Civil War was mainly about slavery.

And on that "states' rights"
argument, for the record:

the Southern states were
ardently pro-states' rights,

but with some glaring exceptions.

When Northern states passed laws
to help protect runaway slaves,

the South wanted federal government
to override those states' laws.

So, they loved states' rights,
as they were the right states' rights.

The wrong states' rights
would be states' wrongs,

wrongs which needed to be righted
by the right states' rights.

To put it simply:
they just wanted to own black people

and they didn't much care how,
that's a fact !

But that's a very hard fact
for some people to accept,

especially if a member of your
family fought for the Confederacy.

The desire to want to distance
your relative from that cause

can lead to people distorting
the cause itself.

Watch as one man,
in North Carolina,

defend a Confederate statue
by talking about his family history.

My great-grandfather
was a Confederate soldier.

And I was proud of that

because my opinion
of his fight was for his rights.

I don't know what his rights
were, I wasn't there.

He was dead long
before I came along.

I'm concerned about our monument,
I want it to stay.

It reminds me that I got
a little rebel in me.

We all want
to kind of be independent.

We all have a little rebel in us,
even the ladies.

Even the ladies !

Hashtag feminism,
hashtag confedera-she.

I don't know
why his great-grandfather fought.

It is hard to know the motivations
of any individual soldier.

What we do know is that,
again, collectively,

they were fighting to preserve
the institution of slavery.

I honestly get wanting a more
comfortable history for your family,

but you can't invent a comfortable
history for your country.

You'd be erasing the actual,
painful experiences of many Americans,

as a fellow
North Carolinian explains.

When I walk by this statue,
I become very painful

when I think of the suffering
that my ancestors went through.

They enslaved people,

abused people
for their own economic impact

and it should not be celebrated
by these statues.

Right. And that is the harsh reality
of what was done by Confederate men,

and, yes, even the ladies,
hashtag confedera-she.

If you want to see a crystallization
of what happens when two people

have wildly different views
of the same symbol,

watch this local news clip.

- Why do you carry that flag ?
- Because this is my heritage !

My family fought to save
their farm under this flag !

Who was working that farm ?

That is a good, tough question.
The news clip cut out there,

but we were intrigued
to find out his response,

we tracked it down.

Whatever you are expecting,
you're going to be surprised.

- Who was working that farm ?
- My family was.

They were poor. Do you know
how much a slave cost back then ?

You know you are in the wrong
when you decide your best argument

is screaming at a black man: "You know
how expensive you used to be ?"

It is comments like that one
that landed this guy

on the cover of "Holy Shit That
Is Not Remotely The Point" magazine.

That is an intense example,

but denial of this painful part
of history can take many forms.

Look at PBS's
"Finding Your Roots",

where Henry Louis Gates explores
celebrities' family histories

and he often finds some shit.

Ben Affleck pulled strings to get
the show to remove all references

to his slave-owning ancestors
and though he later apologized,

that impulse is not good,
because it sanitizes history.

While there is no easy way to respond
to learning that horrible information,

it is worth watching Anderson Cooper
find out how one relative of his died.

Boykin was murdered
by a rebellious slave.

Your ancestor was beaten to death
with a farm hoe.

My god. That's amazing.

Incredible. I'm blown away.

- He deserved it ?
- Yeah.

You know what ?
As a general rule, just try

not to live a life that could lead
a descendant of yours to one day say:

"a guy smashed grandpappy's
head in with a garden hoe ?"

"Amazing !
Great job, that guy !"

But my absolute favorite response
to a nasty surprise

comes from Larry David,
who received a real one-two punch.

My great grandfather fought
for the South in the Civil War ?

Are you kidding ?

My goodness.
I hope no slaves show up on this.

Please turn the page.

Larry, this is another
part of the eighteenth...

You did it ! I knew it !

- Unbelievable.
- That's unbelievable.

Yeah, pret-ty, pret-ty, pretty bad.
Pretty bad !

Larry David is not responsible
for what his ancestors did.

None of us are. I have to believe
that, because I'm English

and I "would" like to go to an Indian
restaurant at some point in my life.

We do have to reckon,
personally and as a country,

with what our heritage means.

You can't ignore it,
like Batman.

You can't say it's something else,
like Town-Meeting Santa.

You've got to actively, painfully
come to grips with slavery

and the lasting benefits and
disadvantages it conferred,

in ways that we haven't yet.

That brings us back
to Confederate monuments.

There is something about them
that symbolizes our reluctance

to have that conversation and that
is the dates that they went up.

While some initial memorials were
built, mainly in cemeteries,

shortly after the Civil War,
the real surge came much later.

The Southern Poverty Law Center
says a majority of the monuments

were erected decades
after General Lee's surrender.

As this chart of the years
that they were dedicated shows,

there was a big spike
from 1900 to 1920,

as white southerners were reasserting
their dominance through Jim Crow laws,

with another spike
in the fifties and sixties,

as the Civil Rights Movement
was gaining steam.

So they weren't
commemorating recently-fallen dead,

as sending a hostile message
to African Americans.

Sending messages is kind
of what statues are often for.

This one says
"we love freedom".

This one: "the most notable thing about
our city is a fictional character",

and this one says
"about yea big".

We still don't know
what he was trying to measure,

but whatever it was,
it was about yea big.

For some Confederate statues,
the intent is crystal clear.

In that town meeting from before,
the statue they were debating was this,

which went up in 1914,

and a leader of that county's chapter
of the KKK gave a speech,

calling the occasion
an opportunity

"to recall achievements of the great
and good of our own race and blood".

Which is pretty
on-the-nose right there.

The largest Confederate memorial,
carving on Stone Mountain in Georgia,

is located where
the 20th-century KKK was born.

It depicts three Confederate
leaders on horseback

and it was completed in 1972,

so there is color footage
of the dedication.

After half a century of work,
the memorial carving is finished

and officials are calling it
the eighth wonder of the world.

We must recall those principles
of loyalty, dignity, and honor

that shine through the lives of men
we commemorate today.

Yes, that was Vice President
Spiro Agnew commemorating

the "loyalty" of literal traitors.

What can you expect from a man
whose name, rearranged,

spells "grow a penis" ?

Some monuments went up
even more recently.

I want to show you one that
was erected on private land,

but very much
for public consumption.

Once you see it,
you will not forget it.

The statue was erected in 1998.
It portrays Nathan Bedford Forrest

on his horse, gun in one hand
and sword in the other,

surrounded by Confederate
state battle flags,

visible for all to see
on the side of I-65.

Forrest was a Confederate general
and an early leader of the KKK.

That is terrifying,
regardless of context.

He looks like if a nickel
did cocaine.

Some of these statues commemorate
people who fought to preserve slavery,

were erected
to assert white supremacy

and were dedicated
by Klan members.

And yet, there is a blanket defense
that tends to get offered by people

and not just people,
also this guy.

They're trying to take away
our culture, our history.

Their argument is, taking these
statues down obliterates history.

Which is ridiculous. First: monuments
are not how we record history.

Books are. Museums are.
Ken Burns 12-part miniseries are.

Statues are how we glorify people
or, in the case of one in Tokyo,

how we glorify giant
radioactive lizards.

The president's concern: tearing down
statues leads to a slippery slope.

This week, it's Robert E. Lee.
Stonewall Jackson's coming down.

I wonder,
is it George Washington next week ?

Is it Thomas Jefferson
the week after ?

You really do have to ask yourself,
where does it stop ?

I'll tell you where it stops:
somewhere.

Anytime someone asks
"where does it stop ?"

the answer
is always fucking somewhere.

You might let your kid have Twizzlers,
but not inject black-tar heroin.

You don't go; "after the Twizzlers,
where does it stop ?"

And the same is true
of Confederate monuments.

Think of it this way:
all people, living and dead,

exist on what I'm going to call
the Hitler-Hanks spectrum,

from bad to good.

At some point
on the spectrum,

monuments to honor people
are going to be inappropriate.

It does get tricky
around the middle,

where, of course,
you'll find Adolf Hankler.

There are people deserving of statues
who were imperfect humans.

Sometimes our standards
change over time,

you're judging historical
figures by modern standards.

For many Confederate monuments,

especially those erected
well after the Civil War,

valorizing the cause
or leadership of the Confederacy,

this really isn't a close call.

This is your babysitter showing up
in a Jimmy Savile t-shirt.

I don't care what you think
that represents,

you're not staying home
with my fucking kid tonight.

For Robert E. Lee in particular,
it's easier, because of this.

Lee was once asked about placing
memorials at Gettysburg in 1869.

The former general replied:

"I think it wiser
not to keep open the sores of war"

"but to follow those
nations who endeavored to obliterate"

"the marks of civil strife,"

"to commit to oblivion
the feelings engendered."

Robert E. Lee was opposed to statues
of people like Robert E. Lee.

So any city that decides to keep
a statue of him should

add a speech bubble saying:
"I told you not to do this".

What do we do now ? I would argue
that "nothing" is not acceptable.

Trying to paper over the cracks
can make things worse.

Richmond tried to fix
its Monument Avenue,

a street lined with statues
of Confederate leaders,

by adding African-American
tennis legend Arthur Ashe to it.

You can't give Confederates
a black friend and say:

"We're good, right ?"
Arthur's up there. You love Arthur."

If we want to learn from
and honor our history,

the first step might be to put statues
somewhere more appropriate,

surrounded by ample historical
context, like in a museum,

where people go to learn
about history

and also,
to punish their children.

Try not to think of this as a loss.
It's actually a real opportunity.

I'll show you,
please come with me:

if and when a plinth
becomes empty,

that is a huge chance for your area,
to honor someone who deserves it.

I have some ideas for replacements
I would love to run by you.

First: Beaufort County,
South Carolina,

how about a giant statue
of Robert Smalls here ?

He was born into slavery,
he stole a Confederate boat

and he sailed it to freedom,
later served five terms in Congress.

This guy is amazing !
Atlanta, Texas ?

You are the birthplace
to Bessie Coleman,

the first African American
woman pilot.

Why would you not want this ?
She's incredible !

Florida ?
You might not want an individual,

but something that honors
what your state represents ?

Something that says
"you've got a little rebel in you" ?

I give you this statue
of your official state reptile,

an alligator,
giving everyone the finger.

He's called Herman !
And he definitely says Florida,

while also having
nothing to do with slavery !

Finally there is Charleston.
And to you I say this:

why have a divisive Confederate
statue when instead,

that pedestal can be filled
by your favorite son,

the actual Stephen Colbert,
who will stand up there all day,

telling you fun facts
about your wonderful town ?

Right ?

Yes, Charleston.

Charleston is the site of the
first free public library in America !

That's fascinating !

Every year,
we host Zugunruhefest,

the Southeast's most comprehensive
migration-focused birding festival !

That sounds incredible !
I'll Google it !

You can have this 24 hours
a day, seven days a week !

I actually, I need to do
my show five days a week.

Five ?! How ?

I don't know.

We're also Traveler and Leisure's
number 1 U.S. destination

for the last 5 years running !

Come on, Charleston !
You could have this in your life !

That's our show.
See you next week, good night !

Also, it's the first public
museum in America.

It's also the first naval victory
over the British in America !

- I don't want to hear that.
- Of course you don't.

It's kind of important.
We're proud of it.

- You started it.
- No, no you started it. Be honest.

We started it a little bit...

END OF EPISODE 26,
SEASON IV